Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care Contents


1.The NHS employs around 1.3 million people in England,11 and there are around 1.65 million jobs in adult social care.12 Together both services potentially account for around 8.6% of the working age population.13 Not only is our health and wellbeing dependent upon their commitment, but many people will have friends and family who work in the NHS or care system. It is essential they are able to carry out their duties safely and effectively.

2.The Committee is enormously grateful to staff and volunteers across health and social care who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. It should surprise no-one that they stepped up at this time of national crisis. Indeed, during our inquiry we heard that:

Discretionary effort is the rocket fuel that powers the NHS, effectively. If staff worked to contract and worked to rule, we simply would not be able to provide anything like the quality of care that we need to. Part of the problem is that we are relying relentlessly on the good will of our staff.14

3.However, that discretionary effort is not sustainable. Workforce burnout was an issue in the NHS and social care workforce long before covid-19 and it needs to be tackled now if we are to attract and retain skilled staff, keep them physically and mentally well, and provide high quality care to patients and service users.

4.We launched our inquiry into workforce burnout and resilience in July 2020, with the following terms of reference:

5.In response to the terms of reference, we received over 100 written submissions. In addition, we held four oral evidence sessions, and carried out seven anonymous in-depth interviews with frontline staff.

6.Our Report is set out in five chapters. In Chapter (2) we consider the scale of the problem and the factors underlying workforce burnout. In Chapter (3) we consider workforce culture and how it needs to change to better support staff in the health and care sector. In Chapter (4) we consider the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on workforce burnout and resilience. In Chapter (5) we consider the need for better workforce planning to ensure that the health and care sector has the level of staff that it needs.

7.In Chapters (3) and (4) we also consider the specific pressures that have been placed on staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds both before and as a result of the pandemic.

11, NHS workforce, accessed 21 April 2021

13 According to the 2011 Census, the working age population (people aged 16 to 64 years) of England was 34.3 million. Working age population, accessed 11 May 2021

14 Q128, Chris Hopson, NHS Providers

Published: 8 June 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement